Mike didn’t tell me he was bringing Jeremy. He just showed up with him and I have to admit that put a damper on my mood. I like Mike’s son, Jeremy; he’s a good kid, 7 years old now. He’s fun, and he’s a conscientious listener. But I hadn’t expected him, that’s all, and now I didn’t know what to do about dinner. I’d made reservations at Novio’s, but I didn’t want to take a first grader there. So I was disappointed. I’d been thinking about their red clam sauce all afternoon, and now Mike was talking Burger King or Pizza Hut.
I set Jeremy up at the dining room table with crayons and construction paper while Mike and I went into the kitchen to talk in low, intense voices. Our conversations were often like this lately: a game of pick up sticks, each word fragile or reckless, a series of implied warnings that could topple my emotions any moment.
Jeremy coughed and we both turned, surprised to see the boy loitering near the kitchen door, his drawing clutched in his fist. “How do you spell commitment?” he asked.
We looked at each other, startled. “Why do you need that word?” Mike asked.
Jeremy turned his paper and held it high to show us a red and white sailing ship, upright and tall in a carefully colored blue background. “Because that’s the name of the boat!”
“Oh!” I said. “I know that story. We have that book in my classroom too. About the man who sailed to Easter Island, right?”
Jeremy nodded, grinning, pleased at my recognition. “Good book,” I said, and he agreed. Mike spelled commitment, and the drawing was mounted on my fridge with magnets.
But even as I watched Mike centering the boat in my kitchen, I knew the voyage was over. I’d known it for a long time.
Mike and Jeremy went off to get take-out at the Chinese restaurant down the block—a noodle dish for Jeremy, Schezwan chicken with peanuts and wrapped pork for me and Mike. I stood in the kitchen staring at the picture’s blue sky and blue water, imagining a depth filled with kelp and clown fish, eels and squid. Is this a portal back to a time when I subsisted on the air, keen to cultivate a lighter side where gravity didn’t hold me back and I was satisfied with little? Or was I sinking into a grief as slow as a humid Miami summer, mercury rising higher and higher, trapped between black water and orange sky? Both. I knew I was rushing toward both.
I put on the kettle to make green tea. I’ll play the loner again. It will be sad, but beautiful.
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash